The overwhelming tendency is to give children more and more of what they want. And, in today’s world, the ‘wants’ keep expanding almost daily.

There are more toys, more gadgets, more clothes, more electronics and more to do than most of us could even have imagined 20 years ago. Add the Internet, constant social media engagement, unlimited cable TV stations and a phone that reach everyone instantly, the selection of things to do is ever-expanding. The reality is that our children have more options than any children have even had in the history of mankind.

The Paradox: We All Want More Choices.

If we present humans, whether young or old, with the option of fewer choices or more choices, everyone wants more choices. We all want to have a say, a voice, and to feel like we have choice.

Why is this so universal? It appears to come from the illusion of control. The more we can partake in the illusion of control, the more satisfying this is to the mind or what many might call the ‘ego.’ The ‘ego’ loves control. It is important to note that this control is very much of an illusion, as the strongly conclusive research shows that our decisions are made unconsciously, based upon our history primarily, and we become ‘aware’ of the decision after the choice has been made. Thus, this sense of control is very much of an illusion, but one we enjoy. This fact alone is mind-boggling…in and of itself.

But for now, let’s just settle into the reality that we all like to have a choice. As the Holidays approach, you and your children are given more choices, more options and more possibilities than ever before. All these options com with a price.

More Choice Means Stress for Everyone? How so?

With more choice comes more stress and anxiety. There is more data to process. There are more criteria to take into consideration. Adults and (most) children know that they can’t choose every option. They know they can’t have it all, so to speak.

So, like many adults, they think through their options. They struggle with the right choice. They go back and forth. They imagine it one way, then another and yet another. All this can happen very quickly sometimes, and at other times this goes on for days or weeks.

Thus, while we love the options, the number of options has grown overwhelming to adults and children. At times, the large numbers of options seem to paralyze us. Because many children are not open about this internal process, we don’t necessarily see it happening. Yet, often it is!

As adults, we relate to the internal struggle more easily: “Should I get the large tile or the smaller tile? The tan or the light tan? What color grout, now that I have 72 options of grout color?” The selections tend to send us into repeated circles of trying to make the ‘right’ and ‘perfect’ choice.

Many children do the same. They are caught in similar struggles, particularly when too many options are presented to them. And for some kids, they are clear. They just put EVERYTHING on the list. They don’t even try to figure it out. “Just give me everything.” They get one thing, and then they want the next. And the next. It can seem endless. This often leads to disappointment, or you find parents frantically filling up the entire room with more and more.

How Much Is Enough?

The Holidays then become a time of anxiety for parents, as they try to get everything possible on the list while also beginning to set some reasonable limits. “But where do we stop?” “How much is the right amount?” “Did you see what ‘the Jones’ got for their kids? At least we are not that crazed!”

All of this is robbing us of joy for the Holidays and adding more stress. We end up worried about getting the right gift, the right amount, and creating the ‘right moment.’ And trying to find the ‘perfect’ set of gifts is often disappointing and frustrating, when faced with all these options. Why?

Ultimately, More Choice Leads to More Paths to Disappointment.

In other words, with all these choices, both adults and children can easily find disappointment by thinking of what they did not get. Perhaps it’s the other color? The smaller style? Should I have waited for the newer version of the iPhone 28, with the metallic shade? In countless ways, we can doubt what we get and contemplate the options we didn’t choose. We can consume many wonderful and beautiful moments of life, lost in our regrets for not making an alternative choice.

This can become so natural and effortless. There, in front of us, is something new, exciting and ready to be enjoyed. Yet, we end up thinking of what ‘could have been.’

How do we avoid this? Next week, I will discuss one way of approaching your Holiday Season that can help eliminate this poison from your home and open the door to more joy and pleasure in the midst of all the beautiful giving and sharing.